Difficulties of Writing a Full-Length Play – Pippa Roberts, Cheltenham.

Hi everyone,

Here I am again, wanting to discuss the mechanics of full-length plays…

I know many of you came to see the 45 minute version of Chips (the robot play), but I have been trying to fill it out, to make a full-length play for some time now. I’m finding it quite frustrating that, in all the teaching I’ve had in writing for theatre, nobody ever discussed the problems of moving from writing short plays to writing full-length ones.

In desperation, a couple of years ago, I paid for some private tuition from David Lane, who I have huge admiration for. He gave me some very good guidance… told me that he could see immediately that I was more used to writing short plays, and said that the main thing I need to do is to put in a lot more work on character. He advised me to draw up a plan to show what each character thought they were giving to another character, and what the other character thought they were receiving.  I found this difficult, without knowing the history of my characters, and I decided that I needed to sketch out the lives they’d had before the play, if I wanted to present more fully developed characters.

Other work took over, and the play languished on the back burner. Then I noticed that David Lane was again offering individual help with plays, so I decided to send him my rewrite. That’s what I’m working on at the moment (prior to feedback).

The problem is that I have been bogged down in the character work. I didn’t know how much of it was necessary, and sometimes it felt as if I was making the characters up all over again. (The problem of having written something when you had inadequate knowledge!) I searched online for a book that might help me be more focused in my character work, and found ‘Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel’.

It is exactly the book I need… or pretty exactly… I might prefer it if it was about plays instead (at the moment)… though of course it will come in for future stories and novels too. I’d recommend it very highly to my fellow Everyman writers (that were) and to those who did the Skylines course with me, and to the Salisbury playwrights I worked with. I think most of us were having the same difficulty. I’ve finally discovered how I put the missing pieces in the jigsaw. It’s going to be a lot of work, but at last I know where I’m going…

Not sure how long David is going to be waiting for this draft though…

Pippa :/